Following on from the announcement yesterday on Chelsea parting company with our head coach, our regular columnist and former Blues player Pat Nevin has his say on the job Frank Lampard did and on how the team can move forward from here…
I am desperately saddened to see Frank Lampard leaving the club, but then again who isn’t. I suspect those who made the decision are saddened too. In fact, if you aren’t upset at all then you almost certainly aren’t a true Chelsea fan.However much pain there is at the moment, I just hope there is no lasting bad feeling with a man who is arguably the most important player in the club's history. There certainly will never be any negativity from Chelsea fans, that is not who we are.I was snowed under literally and metaphorically yesterday, the latter by calls for media interviews on the news that Frank had gone. There were the expected questions, but a few asked me why he had done such a bad job? I had a question for them in reply. So, getting into the top four last season after not being able to spend money, reaching the FA Cup final, getting through to the group stages twice in the Champions League while blooding a host of new young emerging talents at the same time, was that a bad job?Of course it wasn’t bad, it was just that lately it has not, in the club's eyes, been good enough, specifically with the crucial competition to get into the top four looking like being tighter than ever this season.
I have been in the position of having to make, or not make, those calls in the past in a previous life as a chief executive of a Scottish club. They are not only difficult but they are also horrible heart-breaking decisions to have to make. I hated that part of the job more than any other.Football management is arguably an even more brutal business. In fact that is specifically the reason why I never fancied going into that side of the game myself. Frank did go in with his eyes wide open, he is an intelligent man and his comments over the past half-season underlined that realism and understanding. He will be back in the hot seat again soon enough I am sure if he really wants to, unless of course he fancies a cushier life in the TV studios. I know which one I would choose, or to be more precise, the one I did choose!At times like these I am not only thinking of the men who have left but I am also always looking out for the players who remain. Somehow, they need to get their heads right after such a shock. It is going to be a particularly big ask for some of the younger players who have had Frank and his coaching team to thank for their opportunities and who each looked to him as a mentor. They must be professional now and work with the new coach, but it is undoubtedly a concerning time for them.
Throughout the entirety of my career, the changes of manager just happened to affect me negatively every single time. It is not that I was a lesser player or lost belief, it is just that the new manager invariably wanted to go in a different direction, change the tactics or quite simply didn’t rate me as highly as the guy who had originally signed me. All players know this can happen to them, so there can be uncertainty. On the other hand, if you aren’t playing every week and the old gaffer isn’t favouring you, the new guy might rate you higher and his systems might suit you better. There are some grown-up swings and roundabouts involved here.The trick is to be ultra-positive and just accept that this is part of the deal as a player. You must accept that all the good work you have done before stands for little or nothing, everyone is starting from a level footing again. Although it often does lead to a bounce in form, some players find this hard to deal with. They shouldn’t, because in reality that is the way it should be for every single game. If you have a stinker in even just one match there is every likelihood you could lose your place, especially in a squad as talented as Chelsea have.
The new coach will have to find out a good deal about some of the players he doesn’t know all that well at the moment. He not only has to learn about their playing abilities, but about their ability to work together and just as importantly, their individual strengths of character. He has to do all this quickly, while making sure the form improves in the toughest league in the world, right in the middle of the season.The older players know the score and have been through it all before, but it is a particular test for the younger ones, and it will be interesting to see who reacts best in the new circumstances.What we do know is that in the very simplest terms a couple of wins in the next two home games could make the league table look a lot more welcoming from our perspective. Take care of Wolves tomorrow and Burnley on Sunday, also at the Bridge, and suddenly the picture looks a lot rosier in the league. We went on a sequence of 17 unbeaten games in all competitions earlier this season, so the lads know they are capable of another long, successful run.
It has now become a cliché that this season is hard to gauge. Manchester United were in 15th place just a few months back and look at them now. Liverpool are in a tailspin after people were telling me three weeks ago that they were odds on to win the league again. As I write we are only five points off fourth place.One thing I am sure about is that we have enough very good players to have a very good side, one that can also grow and improve in time. If the right mix can be found then I still hope for glories to come. The biggest downside is that for the moment the players still can’t depend on the fans getting behind them vocally at the ground. Now as much as ever they really could do with your support, however sad you are at saying goodbye to a legend.